Bangladesh population

More obstacles to the population census

The census, which provides comprehensive data on the entire population and its composition, is essential for policy-making. Photo: star/file


The census, which provides comprehensive data on the entire population and its composition, is essential for policy-making. Photo: star/file

After twice rejecting proposals to purchase 3.95 lakh tablet computers for the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the government yesterday granted approval for the purpose so that the statistical agency could conduct the population and housing census which was to start three years ago.

The Cabinet Committee on Government Procurement, chaired by Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, has given its approval to the proposal to buy tablets for around Tk 448 crore from Walton Digi-Tech Industries Ltd, said Zillur Rahman, Secretary additional cabinet division.

The proposal was approved in accordance with all relevant regulations.

“We will start the census as soon as possible. We will all meet early next week to prepare a plan to start the census,” Planning Minister MA Mannan told the Daily Star.

Census activities will start after getting the green light from the prime minister, he said.

The census, which provides comprehensive data on the overall population, its composition, labor force, density, housing and other socio-economic indicators, is essential for formulating appropriate economic and other policies.

The BBS last published a population census report in 2011 which estimated the population of Bangladesh at 15.17 crore.

He said the population growth rate was 1.37%. Currently, the population of Bangladesh is around 17 crore.

In 2018, the BBS had prepared a master plan to conduct the census from January 2 to January 8, 2021 to publish a preliminary report by July last year.

As a result, in October 2019, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved a Tk 1,761 crore project for the Population and Housing Census which will take place every 10 years.

However, the bidding process to purchase census logistics has been delayed following the coronavirus pandemic.

In June last year, the BBS launched the first tender. Eight companies had purchased tender documents but only two local companies, which manufacture and assemble electronic items, participated in the tender.

Later, the BBS Technical Evaluation Committee chose the second lowest bidder after the lowest bidder was disqualified. But the selection by the BBS was rejected “for not having followed due process” and the purchasing committee asked the agency on August 25 to relaunch the call for tenders to buy the tablets.

In December last year, the procurement committee again rejected BBS’s tender proposal, citing a lack of detail in the proposal.

In response to a question, Finance Minister Kamal said two local companies participated in the tender to supply the tablets and the government was trying to verify the information.

During the first week of January this year, Planning Minister Mannan said that many “dark forces” were working behind the scenes to delay the purchase of tablets that would be used to conduct the census of the population of the country.

Mohammad Mainul Islam, a professor in the department of population science at the University of Dhaka, said it was already too late to conduct a census that would provide up-to-date data for proper policy formulation and intervention.

“Researchers and policymakers need up-to-date data to understand the real situation,” Islam said.

“As the census takes place across the country, it is generally accepted. The census data is necessary for the development of a comprehensive policy and therefore, it should start as soon as possible,” he added.